Flash Fiction Challenge: The Retreat

st felicien cougars 1998
st felicien cougars
Photo by K.S. Brooks

I hate these corporate retreats. I hate the happy talk and the way they pretend that what you have to say matters in the least.

Three freaking days with a bunch of people I have to work elbow-to-elbow with for eight hours a day the rest of the year anyway.

Most of all, I hate the forced group activities. This year, Doug, our glorious leader, insisted we all do a ten mile bike ride through the wilderness trail. As always, he was way ahead of the pack, even though the rangers told us to stick together. Doug should have listened…

In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and/or the written prompt above. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

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6 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: The Retreat”

  1. I hate these corporate retreats. I hate the happy talk and the way they pretend that what you have to say matters in the least.
    Three freaking days with a bunch of people I have to work elbow-to-elbow with for eight hours a day the rest of the year anyway.
    Most of all, I hate the forced group activities. This year, Doug, our glorious leader, insisted we all do a ten mile bike ride through the wilderness trail. As always, he was way ahead of the pack, even though the rangers told us to stick together. Doug should have listened…

    Packed together, riding in disglorious tedium, we watched him disappear around a curve.

    I pulled up. “What’s the point in breathing Doug’s dust? None of us will beat him.” It was the fastest we’d ever reached consensus.

    Criticizing Doug’s pushy agenda dwindled. Nature claimed our retreating attention. We settled into pink-blossomed solitude.

    “What’s that?” We were far along the deserted trail. It couldn’t be a baby crying.

    Splitting the area, we scanned through blooms covering the rocks until Tarya spotted two cougars frozen above a craggy dropoff. Briefly, they shifted their gaze as we craned to see their target.

    The mewling came from a tiny bundle of paws flailing in a crevice on a ledge fifteen feet below. Wedged between the rock and the cliff, the kitten swam against air.

    For an hour, the five of us strategized, tested theories, and creatively combined our limited resources. Another hour convinced even me the gerry-rigged safety line would hold.

    They lowered me into the outstretching void. I refused to let the vertigo or the lone biker below distract my focus.

    With the tiny package writhing safely in Andre’s fannypack, I worked my fingers into the cracks as Chris called guidance while Tarya, Andre, and Jim tugged the line up.

    Four sweaty sets of hands pulled me inelegantly over the rim. I sprawled triumphant, my nails crushed, my knee bloody, my coordinated biking gear ruined.

    Liberated, the kitten skittered off after its departing parents.

    Satisfied, we retreated together along the empty rocks.

  2. When we found his body, to put it lightly, there wasn’t so much of a body anymore. Doug rode further ahead than we thought. We never heard the attack, never heard his screams. Oh, I am sure he screamed.

    What we did find was his head. Claw marks dug deep into the side of his face. A rend and then tear removed the head from the body. I held Sue from accounting’s hair as she tossed the light lunch we ate before the ride into the weeds beside the trail.

    We saw nothing of the animals that attacked him though. An attack in broad daylight, swift with no warning. I didn’t expect to see much. Hell, I assumed it was a mountain lion or something like that anyway.

    Bob, lead programmer from the Jenkins account, called the ranger station to report the issue. He told us they should have a crew out in short order.

    Only problem, they needed a couple of us to stick around and guide them to the deceased’s location. Said that they would need to collect information from the attack site.

    Me and Bob lost the pool and stuck around to watch over the area and the body. I haven’t seen the animal that did this still but I have heard some howling, and the moon is just over the horizon.

    The howls have been getting closer. I wonder if the ranger’s will get here before nightfall.

  3. Run! Hide! They’re going to catch me. No escape! I run. Panicked. Afraid. Nowhere to hide. I feel helpless chased by unknowns. Caught, they beat me.

    I awoke sweating, traumatized. The nightmare had returned.

    Therapists? Virtually worthless – their standardized formulas devised for stuffing into boxes the turmoil of a splintered mind. Bottomline, this battle belonged to me alone, not hired boxing-agents. Who better to sort through the shambles and reconstruct? Finding fragmentations and truth became my focus.

    “Oh Truth! Set me free!”

    “I thought that babbling psychologist hypnotist resolved this dream,” One said.

    “So I thought, evidently not. Surprise! Surprise!”

    “Have either of you considered there’s another lost child on this tree-branch needing rescue?” Two said.

    “Another lost child-personality to retrieve? Hmmm… rings true to me.”

    As much as I might want it, nothing changes the past. However past’s anguish can be affected. Several inner-children and I set the rescue in motion.

    Eyes closed, I/we relaxed into meditation. We found the point of birthing. The child had split thus to emotionally survive brutal beatings. Taking the form of a fairy godmother I cut the cord. I-personalities swaddled this lost child’s inner beauty and chutzpah in a starry gown. It served to hide her until time to rescue this our little “Cinderella.”

    The clock struck midnight. The glass slipper key fit the child perfectly. Cinderella would return to the whole, but first debriefing and healing.

    In the battle for the mind there is no retreat. There is only forward! Charge!

  4. I hate these corporate retreats. I hate the happy talk and the way they pretend that what you have to say matters in the least.
    Three freaking days with a bunch of people I have to work elbow-to-elbow with for eight hours a day the rest of the year anyway.
    Most of all, I hate the forced group activities. This year, Doug, our glorious leader, insisted we all do a ten mile bike ride through the wilderness trail. As always, he was way ahead of the pack, even though the rangers told us to stick together. Doug should have listened…
    Doug looked back, it was always the same. No-one could match his strength and energy. Being the leader means to lead, to show people a Shackleton stamina. Doug was pretty sure that the rangers were just taking precautions, I mean, when did anyone hear of rogue mountain lions attacking people?
    Turning the corner, he skidded and flew up like a blanket of dust. He caught the first one off to the side, the second had its hand on his front wheel.
    ‘EYYYY. Look what we ‘ave ‘ere. A l’ttle skinny maaaan.’ Its claws paused to puncture Doug’s tyre.
    ‘Whay you doin? You wanda score? Geet high? Wee got good stuuffff, you come wivvve us now.’
    Doug felt claws at the back of his neck and heavy breathing, it stunk of old tobacco and coffee.
    ‘Ddin the wanger tell yuuu that eets dangerous?’ Doug nodded. He remembered too well.

    250 words

  5. My calves cramped as I panted and pedaled over a steep hill on the wilderness trail. I’m getting too old for these corporate retreats and team-building exer— “Crap!”

    Doug’s motionless body lay facedown on the wilderness trail next to his bicycle. I flung my latest team-leader prize—a lame baseball cap with Bruce embroidered on the peak—dropped my bike, and raced to Doug’s side. His pulse was strong. “Doug, are you all right? Doug!”

    I retched from the bugs I’d swallowed during Doug’s latest “trust challenge”. Or maybe it was from the sight of the deep red seeping into the soil.

    The other riders caught up. Whispered words of shock echoed around my head. Gasps. Rustling. A muffled scream. Yet nobody dared say what we were all thinking. Our glorious leader was badly hurt.

    I grabbed the first-aid kit from my bike. “Charlie, call 911!”

    “Doug took away our phones, smart ass.”

    “It’s over five freaking miles back to the hotel. Give Jenna and me room to work. We’ll figure out how badly he’s hurt.”

    Jenna dropped to her knees. We checked for injuries. Nothing. She stared at the crimson staining her fingers. “Weird—lots of blood, but no obvious trauma.”

    I frowned. “I don’t think that’s blood.”

    Doug’s eyelids quivered. A slight tremble of his lips turned into a smile, and he burst out laughing. “Good job, Bruce and Jenna. Your sales team passed the emergency-response challenge. Are you ready for the next group activity?”

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